December 16, 2008

So. Cal seals show high level of DDT, PCB

Researchers say sea lions and seals living off the coast of Southern California are contaminated by high levels of DDT and PCB.

The research by California State University, Long Beach suggests waste laden with pesticides and chemicals continues to poison marine life off the Palos Verdes Peninsula's White Point, more than 30 years after the dumping was halted.

The report said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency figures show more than 9 million cubic meters of sediment contaminated with about 110 tons of DDT and 11 tons of PCB spread across more than 15 square miles. The compounds are lipophilic, which means they don't dissolve in water, and have remained concentrated in the area, the university said Monday in a release.

Lead author Gwen Goodmanlowe said the study focused on California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals and northern elephant seals. We found that DDT was still very high in all three species, especially California sea lions, even though the dumping of contaminants ended over 30 years ago, she said. PCB levels were also high, but DDT was much higher than PCBs.

The findings are published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.